Fatal Airline Accidents Rise in North America

2019 was one of the safest years ever for commercial aviation, but fatal accidents in North America rose steeply compared to the previous two years and comprised more than half of the fatal accidents worldwide, according to Aviation Safety Network.

Statistics released Monday show that 11 of the 20 fatal aviation accidents occurred in North America in 2019, compared with one of 15 accidents in 2018. Five of the accidents last year occurred in rugged parts of Alaska and Canada. “Despite progress made through various safety initiatives by Canadian and U.S. regulators, this still is an area of concern,” the Aviation Safety Network said in a statement.

Of the 20 total accidents in 2019, 13 involved passenger flights and six were aboard cargo flights. The accidents resulted in 283 fatalities. The bulk of the deaths occurred during the Ethiopian Airlines disaster in March, when a Boeing Co. 737 Max jet plunged into the ground shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board. That led to the global grounding of the jet.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash was the second involving Boeing’s 737 Max following a Lion Air disaster the previous October off the coast of Indonesia. The crashes sparked criticism of Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines, and put aviation safety in the spotlight.

Still, 2019 was the seventh-safest year in aviation history by the number of accidents and the third-safest in terms of fatalities. (The safest year was 2017, when there were 10 accidents and 44 fatalities.) Also, although the number of accidents surpassed the five-year average of 14, fatalities were significantly lower than the average of 480.

Given that there are now 39 million commercial airline flights worldwide per year, the accident rate is around one per every 2 million flights. Harro Ranter, CEO of Aviation Safety Network, says airline safety has significantly improved.

“If the accident rate had remained the same as 10 years ago, there would have been 34 fatal accidents last year,” he said. “At the accident rate of the year 2000, there would even have been 65 fatal accidents. This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades.”

Aviation Safety Network, founded in 1996, is an independent organization located in the Netherlands. It aims to provide up-to-date, complete, reliable and authoritative information on airliner accidents and safety issues. The statistics used in its research are based on all commercial accidents involving civil aircraft carrying 14 or more passengers.

The 20 crashes killed 283 people, with the bulk of the deaths coming from the Ethiopian Airlines disaster in March, when a Boeing Co. 737 Max jet plunged into the ground shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board. That led to the global grounding of the jet.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash was the second involving Boeing’s 737 Max within months, following a Lion Air disaster the previous October. The events thrust aviation safety under the spotlight and led to criticism of Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines

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